The Way - Audio Service 19.12.21
with Revd. David Burrow
Or watch on youtube here.
The book referenced in the recording including the story taken from it is credited to Peter Shilling in 'In a Believer's Ear' published by the Dome Mission, Brighton England and all copyright is with the author.
Subtitles available on the video, please click the 'cc' button.
Suggested Hymns & Songs:
MP 503 'O little town of Bethlehem'
MP 107 'Cradled in a manger meanly'
MP 62 'Born in the night'
MP 35 'Angels from the realms of glory'
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Hello and welcome to this audio service by the Rossendale Methodist Circuit, what you'll hear shortly is a recording of a service that usually takes place at Longholme Methodist Church in Rawtenstall, on Tuesday mornings at 10am. This is a live recording so do expect some background noise, although we've tried to reduce this as much as we can. The hymns, unfortunately have to be removed for copyright reasons but we've suggested some links to versions of the hymns below this video.
So, good morning. Morning. All wrapped up again, masked up. Such is life. Right, as most of you know, we've been following this little book, 'In a believers ear' taken from the hymn, 'How sweet the name of Jesus sounds,' over the last few weeks and so far we've looked at Jesus as our shepherd, brother, friend, prophet, priest, king, Lord, last week was life, this week it's Jesus my way. Jesus my way. When you look at the verse in the hymn, that's the next to the last one, the last one of course is my end, I believe. Yes, Jesus my end. So that's next week, Jesus my end.
In acts chapter 22, and verses 1 to 5, Paul has been arrested at the temple and there's a bit of a, a bit of a to do, bit of a going on and Paul wants to defend himself, he wants to speak to the crowd and so, the soldiers who've arrested him allow him to do that, so Paul stands up and says this, 'Brothers and fathers listen to the defense that I now make before you,' when they heard him addressing them in Hebrew they became even more quiet, then he said, 'I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, in Cilicia but brought up in the city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God just as all of you are today. I persecuted this way, up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me.' Paul persecuted this way. Way with a capital W.
Christians were not known as Christians to begin with, they were known as followers of 'the way' so when Paul says, 'I persecuted the way', the people of the way, he's talking about the early church of course. It wasn't until sometime later in Antioch that the name Christians was used. So today we're talking about Jesus and when we sing that hymn, when we sing, 'Jesus is the way.' Jesus of course said, 'I am the way.'
Almighty God we thankyou that we can come together to worship you this morning and we thankyou that we still have that privilege and that joy and we praise you for you are the God of all creation, the God of the cosmos, and yet you came in Christ that baby at Bethlehem, all of the wonder and the glory of heaven left behind so that you could come to be like us, that we might know how you want us to live, so that you could show us the way. Father forgive us we pray when we have walked away from that way, when we have gone astray, just like the sheep that are mentioned throughout the Bible, and we pray that you would lead us back into that way of following Jesus. So forgive us, we pray by the power of your death and resurrection Lord Jesus, forgive us and fill us once again with your holy spirit, that not only might we follow you but we might have the knowledge and the wonder of you living within us and we might also be able to be empowered to walk in your way, for we ask it in your name, Amen.
Now, in the bible, the word, 'Way' is used in two different, ways. Got to be careful with the use of the word way this morning. The first one is to describe the way we live our lives, you know, recently the Methodist church published this little booklet, 'A Methodist way of life' a guide, a brief guide to a Methodist way of life, it sets out a way of living that is distinctly Methodist and is based on our calling. You know, as God's people we are called to worship, to learning and caring, service and evangelism, and it's a little guide that can help you live as a Christian in that particular way. So the Methodist people are encouraged to walk in this way together. Many of you will have a copy of this because many people were given them, and I've got a box full at home which I'm going to give out in the New Year again to those who haven't, and maybe launch it as something we can look at together. So that's the first way of the use of the word 'way.' The way we live our lives.
Secondly, the word way is used to describe a track or a path, a road, which seems obvious but needs saying I suppose, so how was Jesus using the word way when he was explaining to the disciples, in John chapter 14, that he was going to die. So he's just told them about his forthcoming death and obviously the disciples are upset, they're afraid and so he speaks these wonderful words to them, 'do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me, in my fathers house there are many dwelling places, if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself so that where I am there you may be also and you know the way to the place where I am going.' Thomas said to him, 'Lord we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?' and Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, except through me.' Amen.
So it seems that Jesus there is using the word way in both senses that we mentioned, the way we live our lives and as a path, a way of living. So he's using it both ways, a bit more on that in a minute. But what do we understand when we sing in that hymn, 'Jesus my way.' Peter Shilling the author of the book, suggests that firstly we are saying that Jesus shows me the way to live, Jesus shows me the way to live, the way to live our lives, he has given us a blueprint for our lives, a word that was often used in university was a paradigm, and I used to think what on earth does that mean? I had to go and look it up, it just means, a model, a template, for our lives. Jesus has given us an example, a template for the way to live our lives, a blueprint. We are to live lives of service, why? Because Jesus did, Jesus the suffering servant washed his disciples feet and said, 'I've given you an example, that you should also do as I have done for you' in John 13. You know, we are called to serve others in the same way, not necessarily in our culture to go and wash people's feet, although that does happen in places, I remember one of my friends in Manchester, maybe I've told the story before but she was working as a volunteer at a home for people who were homeless and one day in the middle of summer it was so hot that there was a que outside the door for refreshments and for a cup of tea even, cold drink and people were waiting to come in and she took a chair and a bowl and a towel and some warm water and some cream and several of these people had obviously been on their feet a long time, took the chair, she sat them on the chair, she took of their shoes and their socks and she washed their feet for them, can you imagine how wonderful that must have felt, for somebody who was homeless living on the street to have their feet washed and to be clean, that was Anne, she was an absolute saint, and absolute saint.
So we are called to serve others in the same way that Jesus served and Peter in his first letter reminds his readers which is you and me of course, that for to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you should follow in his steps. So we are called to follow in Jesus' steps. There are many examples of Christians being called to follow Jesus' example, perhaps one of the most well known is in Philippians chapter 2 and chapter 5, sorry verse 5 where it says this, 'Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness and being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.' Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. What an amazing thought isn't it. We are called to have the same mind that Christ Jesus has, Jesus has given us the perfect example of how he wants us to live our lives.
Now contrast Jesus' way of living with that of many in the world today who seek only to live for themselves, in pursuit of power, of wealth, of sex, celebrity status, you know all these things are sadly set up as false Gods to be pursued and worshipped and when things go wrong there's a refusal to accept any responsibility. You know, we live in an age of litigation, someone must be to blame. Responsibility? Well if it's your fault, it's a sign of weakness I'm afraid, someone else has got to take the blame, no one says 'Oh sorry, my fault' and if we as Christians dare to speak of forgiveness rather than revenge, of love rather than hate of the way of Jesus, we are at best not listened to and at worst we are reviled.
Photo by Simon Berger via Unsplash
Peter writing again of Jesus said, 'Jesus committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth, when he was abused he did not return abuse, when he suffered he did not threaten, but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.' And it's clear when
we read our Bibles and the words of Jesus in the New Testament that we have the example of the way to live our lives, just try reading the sermon on the mount in Matthew chapters 5 to 7, I'm not going to read it all now, but remember some of those things that we are told, 'turn the other cheek' that's not an easy one to start with is it? 'Go the extra mile' Crikey! And do it all without complaining, 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' how difficult it can seem sometimes to follow Jesus' example of the way that he lived. I mean it is a wonderful challenge, it is a great way to live, you know, this wonderful list that Jesus makes for us, and thanks to the grace of God and the gift of the holy spirit, who lives in us to empower us, you know, it is possible to follow Jesus' way. As Peter Shilling again goes onto say, to say 'Jesus my way' is not just to pray, show me the way, but positively to assert Jesus shows me the way to live. So that's the first part of the story if you like, the second is, if we want to say Jesus my way it's also to say not just that Jesus shows me the way to live but that Jesus leads me in the way to live, Jesus leads me in the way to live.
When you were a child if you can remember, it's a while ago for me. You know, if you were going across a busy road when you were little and mum or dad was there or grandma or aunty or uncle, hopefully they would hold you by the hand and lead you across, wouldn't leave you to their own devices, a little bit dangerous. I remember our middle son when he was about 2 wanted to cross the road and set off, to run across this road, it's the only time I think I've seen him get a smacked bum, although I keep telling him today, he's still not too big for it, but he might be a bit too big now. But when you took hold of your parents hand or your Grandmas hand or whoever it was who was leading you across the road that dangerous place, you did so because you trusted them, because you felt secure and you knew that they loved you and that they wouldn't lead you into danger.
And when Jesus told his disciples that they must become like little children to enter the kingdom of God he wasn't joking, that's the kind of childlike trust that takes the fathers, the mothers hand and entrusts their life to them, to be childlike in our relationship with our heavenly father is to have a very mature attitude, a mature attitude in our faith and this intimate relationship is why Jesus came into the world. So if we go back again to John's gospel, John chapter 1 you know, just listen to these words, these are some of my favourite words in the Bible, 'Jesus was in the world and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him, he came to what was his own and his own people did not accept him but to all who received him who believed in his name he gave power to become children of God' Jesus has given us power to become children of God, who were born not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but born of God. What a wonderful relationship to have with our heavenly father to be children of God, Paul speaks of this relationship in his letter to the Romans when he tells us that we can call God Abba, Abba Father, Daddy. You know, it doesn't get more intimate than that does it, that wonderful sense of knowing God as our father, to know that God wishes to have that relationship with us. Throughout the old testament we read of God's desire to be in relationship with his people and to lead them, for him to be their God and them to be his people. God lead the children of Israel, his people, through the wilderness in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night in Isaiah chapter 42 verse 16 there's this wonderful promise, 'I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by a pass they have not known I will guide them, I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground' This is the way, walk in it. And we can know God's love in this way, we can know childlike trust in God as we entrust our lives in Jesus' hand and allow him to lead us in the way of his choosing.
Thomas, to return to our reading in John's gospel, from John 14, showed his willingness to follow Jesus but was obviously still perplexed, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?' and when Jesus answered, 'I am the way' Jesus meant he's the road, he's the path, he's actually become the way for us and by becoming the way he leads us to our God centered purpose. In the days before Sat Nav, when you got lost on your journey, did you stop and ask the way from someone, I'd expect all the women to say yes and all the men to say no. 'No it's the opposite in our house.' Is it really? I mean I would convince myself that I could find my way by myself and I would get more and more lost, only when Jackie was beside me and went 'stop and ask somebody', was I sort of brought to my senses, and how wonderful when someone would actually know the place that we were going to, and even better if they didn't just, I mean they could tell us the way, and turn left at this, turn right there and you'd think I'm lost again already, but if they said, 'I'll show you, follow me.' how wonderful when that happens and that what Jesus is saying, I am the way, come with me, follow me and I'll show you, not only how to live your life, the way to live, but I'll show you the way to go as well, the way to God and I mentioned earlier that we have the power in our lives, to live our lives the way Jesus, to live the Jesus way, and to say
Jesus is my way. When we do that we also are claiming that Jesus does empower us in the way to live, to say 'Jesus you are my way' is to say Jesus I believe you will empower me to live that way and we know this is true because there's no way we could live the life of a Christian in our own strength, it's not possible. Paul knew all about this, the most recurring phrase in Paul's letters is, 'In Christ' or 'In him' or 'In the Lord' that phrase, one of those variations occurs 164 times in Paul's letters, to be in Christ, or in the Lord or in him, that's where we need to be and John of course, in John, in John's gospel talks about abiding in Christ, abide in him. We've got to be in Christ. It's the secret to living a victorious Christian life, it's an interesting way of looking at things and one that non Christians as you said last night Rodney at the advent group, one that non Christians find very hard to understand, they can maybe understand a little bit about, yeah I believe in God, I believe that Jesus was the son of God but if we talk about God himself coming to live in us by the power of the holy spirit and empowering us, well that's a whole different ballgame. You can only prove that that is true by quoting maybe the words of the psalmist, try it and see, taste and see that the Lord is good.
Try it for yourself and I mentioned last night at the advent group that I'd come across a story that illustrates this and it was in this book, I'd read it yesterday but I couldn't remember where it was but of course here it is, this is a little story that Peter Shilling tells about people listening to us, as Christians, but then going away and will they do it? Will they try it for themselves? Will they try to follow Jesus in the Jesus way? Well, this is his story, 'Doctor Sangster,' who we've all heard of, 'in his wonderful book 'The
secret of radiant life' tells of a personal friend who thought that he had discovered a cure for rheumatism, he had recovered from the illness himself through the treatment and people who had seen him in pain for years and suffered from the same complaint themselves naturally wanted to find out from him, what had made him well. He was always willing to give details of the treatment he had given himself but he was puzzled how some of those to whom he had given the details did not get better. When he eventually asked them about it he discovered that those whose rheumatism had not improved had not taken the treatment, they'd been interested in the cure but hadn't actually taken it. Ever after that whenever he gave details of the treatment he typed in large letters on the top of the paper, this will do you no good unless you take it.'
In order for people to understand what it means to live the way of a Christian, to follow Jesus in the way, they have to try it for themselves, you only discover it when you try it for yourselves, one of the most popular songs at funerals is 'my way' by Frank Sinatra, it's the last song I want to hear at a funeral, I'd rather have heavy metal or something but not 'my way,' I did it my way, my way is not the Christian way to tackle life at all, it is of course to live Jesus' way, I did it his way would be the wonderful epitaph I hope for each one of us. To say that Jesus shows me the way to live, to say that Jesus leads me in the way to live, to say that Jesus empowers me in the way to live is to declare, is to declare, with complete, with full intention, that you actively want to pursue, Jesus my way.
Let us pray, Lord Jesus we thankyou that you are the way, the truth and the life, that you not only show us the way but that you are the way, the way to God, the way to know that wonderful relationship with our heavenly father, and we thankyou that you left the glory of heaven to be born on earth so that we might know what it means to live as you want us to live, Father thankyou for not just telling us, but for taking us by the hand and showing us. And father as we pray we pray for your world, a world that suffers so much, a world that has so often gone in the opposite way to you, and we pray father that that world, the leaders of the world who have turned away from you would turn back to you, that those who pursue power and the way of self interest that they might turn to look to you and seek how to live in your way, we pray for the leaders of Russia for Putin and the rest, gathering all those armies on the Ukraine boarder, Lord turn them away we pray from the way of war and violence, turn them to peace and Father we pray for the people in Afghanistan that the Taliban might also turn away from the ways of violence, that they might turn to you and as those Christians in Afghanistan pray Lord we pray that you would strengthen them, but we thankyou for their prayers for the Christians in Afghanistan who pray for the Taliban, for that example. Lord break down the walls of hate, enable your people to forgive, and give the leaders who follow the ways of violence, hearts of flesh and not of stone, father we pray for your church that it might be famous, that it might be once again be well known for following your way, for following where you lead and for leading others into your presence, may all the churches where we worship be centers of joy and truth and wonder and love and may your people be known once again as the people of the way, the way of Jesus. And Lord we pray too today for those who grieve, Lord we pray that they might know your presence in their lives today, may they know the wonder and the joy of your holy spirit, bringing hope and peace. Lord it is good to know that people have walked with you and they will walk with you for eternity, Amen.
Christ the son of righteousness, shine upon us and prepare our hearts and souls to meet him when he comes in glory and the blessing of God, the father, the son and the holy spirit be ours now and always, Amen. The day of the Lord is surely coming, be faithful in worship, unwavering in hope, fervent in the work of God's kingdom and all the more as you see the day drawing near, Amen. Come Lord Jesus. Amen.
Thankyou for listening and we hope you enjoyed the service, you can find us online on www.rossendalemethodistcircuit.co.uk and also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, please do let us know what you thought of this service in the comments below and you can always contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.